Wednesday 27 October 2010

Flightless rails, river surveys and discoveries

Well what a mixed day!  When the first thing you see in the morning is an email from a mate on a ship, with a photo of a bird that has gripped you off severely, you might just think it worth going back to bed!  Mike Moore who is currently on the M/V Clipper Odyssey emailed me this morning with an absolutely crippling photo of a Henderson Island rail, having just been to Henderson Island (Pitcairn Group) a day ago - thanks Mike!  I was on Henderson Island about this time last year, and despite my best efforts (and even an extra hour ashore!) still couldn't find can the birder on the ship not find a flightless rail I hear you ask!  Worse than that was the fact that quite a few of the other staff and a heap of the passengers did see the bird, but the birder leading the other birding passengers didn't!  To make things even worse, after the cruise my good friend Sue Flood (who was there and saw one!) dealt the final blow by sending me a signed copy of 'The Life of Birds', signed by Sir David Attenborough....wishing me 'better luck next time with the Henderson Island rail '!  Ahhhhhhhhhhh!
You can see my blog entry from that day here

So after this great start, I headed out to do some bird surveys on the Tutaekuri River with a mate - Butch Menzies.  The plan was he was going to catch lots of trout at the drop-off spot, and then meet me further down the river.  A good plan, if only the fish had known about it!  Anyway, lots of good birds, but the real highlight was finding TWO pairs of South Island oystercatchers, one of them with a nest and two eggs.  These guys (as per their name) are only supposed to breed in the South Island of NZ, but have been recorded breeding on the nearby Ngaruroro River since 1978.  The site they have bred at there is only about 17 km as the crow flies, but there were only two breeding pairs that I found there last year, and numbers seem to have never really increased above a handful of pairs since their discovery.  They have also historically bred at a site in the Wairarapa (also North Island and several hundred kilometres away), but it is unknown if they still do.  This is the first record of them on the Tutaekuri, pretty awesome.

Find the nest!

South Island oystercatcher nest and eggs - the first recorded on the Tutaekuri River, Hawkes Bay

Middle reaches of the Tutaekuri River, near Lower Range Road

Lots of shining cuckoos calling today too, so they are in full swing trying to find grey warbler nests to lay their eggs in.  Fewer banded and black-fronted dotterels than expected today on the stretch of river covered (around 15kms), but this might be a result of the recent rain and high river levels.

A pretty satisfying day in the end...

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